Friday, July 15, 2011

Louie's Masculinity Struggle

“Night Out” an episode from the television series Louie, identifies many different expectations of what it is to be a man in modern society.  The episode follows the hilarious Louis C.K. (known for his stand-up comedic performances), through his everyday life as he enters back into the world of dating through a much different lens, as the stereotypical out of touch father figure.  He is out of shape, timid, and seemingly unconfident.  Louie’s character represents how hegemonic ideals of patriarchy are expected of men, however when men do not meet such expectations, they are labeled as pathetic or ridiculed.

The episode starts with Louie’s date nervously revealing that she has children, her facial expressions reveal she is afraid of what Louie’s reaction may be.  Louie is relieved and almost excitedly tells his date, he as well as two daughters.  Immediately Louie’s date implies she is no longer interested in a man that has children, she remarks “its just too much for me to handle”.  This example portrays the idea of having children as only a gender role only acceptable for women and not men.  The notion of a man caring for his children in modern day society is seen as matronly, therefore alluding that already in the first five minutes of the episode Louie is definitely not defined as a typical patriarch. 

However, it is not only in the show Louie that demonstrates the idea that men are not supposed to be nurturing figures.  In the article “Patriarchy, The System”, the author Allan Johnson conveys that patriarchy is…”about defining women and men as opposites, about the “naturalness” of male aggression, competition, and dominance and of female caring, cooperation, and subordination. (Johnson,94)”  Louie demonstrates the complete opposite of the “normalized” man. His gender role is questioned as a single father when Louie cancels on the babysitter insisting he will just stay in with his girls, he is deemed as a “pathetic loser”.  The babysitter insists Louie must set a good example for his children and do what “normal” men like to do… “get drunk and get laid”.

When Louie enters the bar, he attempts to fit into the hegemonic ideals of a patriarchal society.   Author James Lull describes hegemony as an “inter-articulating, mutually reinforcing process of ideological influences.” (Lull, 62) Louie’s attempt to hit on a women in a very unenthused way, reiterates Louie’s submission to the hegemonic society in which masculine social ideologies imply that in order succeed as a man, one most dominate over women.  Although Louie’s un-patriarchal ways have little effect over women living in a highly patriarchal culture where even females lend into such a social status quo of gender relationships.

Over and over Louie is mocked for his awkwardness and failed attempts to show interest in the world of male strength and dominance.  Louie witnesses two black males come into the bar, when his friend replies in relation to Louie that he must be more like the black men who “know how to get laid”.  These men are ironically described as confident, black, handsome and not boring.   Louie seeks help from these men with much hesitation, hoping to seek the masculine satisfaction of “scoring women” he is expected to desire.

Louie has fallen into the ideologies of a modern patriarchal society in fear of being a socially abnormal man, or a called a “pathetic loser” for not wanting  to spend the night aggressively hunting down woman.  Right before Louie decides to leave the bar, he walks up to a younger woman who turns around screeches and runs off.  This allows Louie to realize another point author Johnson is making, that patriarchy  “has to do with us as individuals-how it shapes us and how we, in choosing to participate shape it.” (Johnson, 96) Louie’s masculinity has been diminished only on the basis of the social parameters other characters have outlined so clearly that it would be hard not to participate. 

Louie’s confidence towards himself promotes just how simply men fall victim to overt masculine identities and patriarchal values.  Our society has shaped so specific hegemonic gender roles, that any slight deviation from norm results in insults that questions one’s self worth and identity.  Louie is shown at the end of the episode smiling for the first time when he takes his daughters out for an early morning breakfast.  Louie’s character demonstrates how hard it is for a man to emerge from gender stereotypes without losing his masculinity.

-Kristi Patelunas

Works Cited-

3 Arts Entertainment. “Night Out” Louie. FX Network. 8 September 2010. Television.

Johnson, Allan G. “Patriarchy, The System An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us.” The Gender Knot:Unraveling Our Patriachal Legacy. 1997. Print

Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. By Gail Dines and Jean McMahon. Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 2003. Print.